I, like many across our country, have been captivated this week by the story of Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot who was able to crash a plane gently enough in the Hudson River that all of his passengers stepped off the plane-turned-boat, full of life, that for at least a moment, they couldn't have expected to have.
Seneca, a Roman philosopher born sometime just before or after the life of Christ, once said that "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity." I've heard that saying many times before in my life, but it never made as much sense as it did this week when the details of this man, now simply referred to as "Sully", became public knowledge. I find it comforting when miracles like those surrounding this crash can't quickly be explained away to luck.
What we discovered this week was a man who had prepared his whole life to save the lives of 150 strangers with a sense of obligation that couldn't have been stronger if his own family had been on board. We've learned that if these passengers had somehow known ahead of time that they were on a plane destined to crash, but were granted an opportunity to choose a pilot for their ill-fated flight, Sully would have stuck out like Air force One at a rural,Virginia county air show as the man for the job. So the fact that this plane crashes and everyone lives, historically an unlikely scenario, was not luck.
I suppose it could be suggested as luck that the right man ends up paired with a sick plane in need of medicine that quite possibly, only he possessed. Others might call it fate. I tend to explain it as part of God's plan. Like so many of God's moves, I can't explain them, but I frequently enjoy taking a stab at it, if even in my own mind. Sometimes I sense him saying close, but not really. Other times, he leaves me in a silence that somehow says that even if I'm not exactly right, it's a worthy thought. This is one of those times I've been met with that silence.
I've found it less than coincidental that this incident happened within a week of tomorrow's presidential inauguration. An inauguration that is expected to have upwards of 2.5 million people in attendance, cost 150 million dollars to host, and require nearly 30,000 police officers and military troops to provide security. The enormity of the event portrays the hope so many have that Barack Obama signifies the end of so much ugly in our country, and the beginning of brighter days ahead, the likes of which many hope we have never seen.
I am a Republican. I have been since I was old enough to understand exactly what the difference was between a donkey and an elephant. But it is for reasons beyond my own political beliefs that I fear so many people's hopes are misguided. I think it is dangerous when people start looking to one person to provide the answers to so many problems. When people start looking tothe top for answers to problems that start at the bottom, I get worried. I believe President Elect Obama is a good man - in many eyes - a great man. But some days I get the impression there is a significant group of people who feel this one man will preclude the need for each of us to live responsibly; to live in a manner that best prepares us for our own opportunities.
As the stories continue to come out about the first moments after that plane became a large, floating dock in the middle of the Hudson River, you hear about people putting others before themselves. Ladies and children exiting the plane before others. A man volunteers to hold a lady's baby as the plane is going down. Grown men holding hands and praying together. A flight attendant manning the back exit of the plane where water was rising the quickest, making sure panicked passengers didn't mistakingly escape to tragedy.
I've been left to wonder if God wasn't just reminding us that the only individual with the power to change our collective lives left this earth a long time ago. But before he did, he left a message that will always supersede all others, one that will always be a simple answer to problems we tend to complicate. He said to simply treat others like we want to be treated. To live a life in service to that notion. I have no doubt that Barack Obama will encourage us all to do that, but in the end, for our country to change, we'll all have to prepare as individuals to meet our own opportunities. As a father, it has been a welcomed reminder.